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Tormentor Mine(10)

By:Anna Zaires

“Sara.” The voice is thick and husky, the face tight with barely restrained hunger. “You have to stop, ptichka. You’ll regret this tomorrow.”

Regret? Yes, I probably will. I regret everything, so many things, and I release the fingers to say so. But before I can utter a word, the fingers pull away from my lips, and the face moves farther away.

“Don’t leave me.” The cry is plaintive, like that of a clingy child. I want more of that human touch, that connection. My head feels like a bag of rocks, and I ache all over, especially near my neck and shoulders. My belly is cramping too. I want someone to brush my hair and massage my neck, to hold me and rock me like a baby. “Please, don’t leave.”

Something resembling pain crosses the man’s face, and I feel the cold prick of the needle in my neck again.

“Goodbye, Sara,” the voice murmurs, and I’m gone, my mind floating away like a fallen leaf.



* * *

The headache. I first become aware of the headache. My skull feels like it’s splitting into pieces, the waves of pain a drumbeat in my brain.

“Dr. Cobakis… Sara, can you hear me?” The female voice is soft and gentle, but it fills me with dread. There’s worry in that voice, mixed with restrained urgency. I hear that tone in the hospital all the time, and it’s never good.

Trying not to move my throbbing skull, I pry my eyelids open and blink spasmodically at the bright light. “What… where…” My tongue is thick and unwieldy, my mouth painfully dry.

“Here, sip this.” A straw is placed near my mouth, and I latch on to it, greedily sucking in the water. My eyes are starting to adjust to the light, and I can make out the room. It’s a hospital, but not my hospital, judging from the unfamiliar decor. Also, I’m not where I usually am. I’m not standing by someone’s hospital bed; I’m lying in one.

“What happened?” I ask hoarsely. As my mind clears, I become aware of nausea and an array of aches and pains. My back feels like one giant bruise, and my neck is stiff and sore. My throat feels raw too, as though I’ve been screaming or vomiting, and when I lift my hand to touch it, I find a thick bandage on the right side of my neck.

“You were attacked, Dr. Cobakis,” a middle-aged black woman says softly, and I recognize her voice as the one who spoke earlier. She’s dressed in nursing scrubs, but somehow she doesn’t look like a nurse. When I stare at her blankly, she clarifies, “In your house. There was a man. Do you remember anything about that?”

I blink, straining to make sense of that confusing statement. I feel like a giant cotton ball has been stuffed into my brain, alongside the beating drum. “My house? Attacked?”

“Yes, Dr. Cobakis,” a male voice answers, and I flinch instinctively, my pulse jumping before I recognize the voice. “But you’re safe now. It’s over. This is a private facility where we treat our agents; you’re safe here.”

Carefully turning my aching head, I gaze at Agent Ryson, and my stomach hollows at the expression on his pale, weathered face. Bits and pieces of my ordeal are filtering in, and with the memories comes a surge of terror.

“George, is he—”

“I’m sorry.” The creases in Ryson’s forehead deepen. “There was an attack on the safe house last night as well. George… He didn’t make it. Neither did the three guards.”

“What?” It’s as if a scalpel punctured my lungs. I can’t take in his words, can’t process the enormity of them. “He’s… he’s gone?” Then the rest of his statement sinks in. “And the three guards? What… how—”

“Dr. Cobakis—Sara.” Ryson steps closer. “I need to know exactly what happened last night, so we can apprehend him.”

“Him? Who’s him?” It’s always been them, the mafia, and I’m too dazed for the sudden change in pronoun. George is gone. George and three guards. I can’t wrap my mind around that, so I don’t try. Not yet, at least. Before I let the grief and pain in, I need to recover more of those memories, piece together the horrifying puzzle.

“She might not remember. The cocktail in her blood was pretty potent,” the nurse says, and I realize she must be with Agent Ryson. That would explain why he’s speaking so freely in front of her when he’s usually discreet to the point of paranoia.

As I process that, the woman steps closer. I’m hooked up to a vital signs monitor, and she checks the blood pressure cuff around my arm, then gives my forearm a light squeeze. I look at my arm, and a cold fist grips my chest when I see a thin red line around my wrist. The other wrist has it too.